Science minister launches year of ESRC anniversary celebrations

Politicians and business leaders will tonight (14 January) gather with some of the country’s leading social scientists at an event to launch a year of celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) revealed that over a quarter of academics in UK universities work in the social sciences. Last year the ESRC spent £212 million on research and training to support over 5,700 researchers and students, funding excellent independent social science research in universities and research institutions across the UK and with 62 countries around the world. The ESRC also works closely with the six other Research Councils in the UK. ESRC-funded research impacts many areas of society, and is regularly used to inform business, policymakers and practitioners.

The event also launches the ESRC’s new Strategic Plan, setting out the key ways in which ESRC will show leadership in supporting social science in the years ahead. The ESRC is the UK’s largest funder of research on social and economic issues, and the new Strategic Plan sets out its commitment to focus on those areas where it can add the most value and collaborate with a range of partners to maximise the value of its investments.

As part of the event at the House of Commons Terrace Pavilion, Minister for Universities, Science and Cities The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP will reflect on how the social sciences have developed since the council was granted its Royal Charter in 1965, when it was known as the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), and what a difference the research has made to society.

Speaking ahead of the event, Greg Clark commented:

“Since 1965, the ESRC has played a crucial role in shaping our understanding of important issues including health, justice, education and the economy. On their 50th anniversary we’re reminded not only of the quality and value of social science research in the UK, but also of the central role the ESRC plays in maintaining and advancing the strength of social science, making the UK a partner of choice for world-class research.

“I congratulate the Economic and Social Research Council for 50 years of high-quality, high-valued research and very much welcome its new Strategic Plan to ensure this continues for the long term.”

Professor Jane Elliott, Chief Executive of the ESRC, said:

“Our new Strategic Plan highlights the need for ambitious and innovative social science. Our aim is to maintain a broad portfolio of investment that includes curiosity-driven research as well as applied work, and work that synthesises existing research. This will ensure that the highest-quality social science makes an essential contribution to the prosperity and wellbeing of people right across the UK. We look forward to another 50 years of making a positive impact as we respond to global challenges, develop new collaborations, and train the next generation of social scientists.”

Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee and Sir Andrew Dilnot, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, will also speak at the event, providing their views on the importance of social science research to the understanding of society today.

The event is the first in a series to mark the anniversary year, which will include competitions for students and researchers and the annual Festival of Social Science in November. More information on the anniversary, including an interactive timeline of the ESRC’s history, can be found at


For further information contact:

·         Aaron Boardley
Telephone: 01793 413122

·         Susie Watts
Telephone: 01793 413119


1.      The new ESRC Strategic Plan is available to download from the ESRC website.

2.      The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government. In 2015 it celebrates its 50th anniversary.